Date issued: 13 September 2023
The heroism and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Arnhem will be honoured at a special service on Wednesday, 20 September, at the city’s War Memorial.
The annual service will commemorate the 79th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to seize a series of bridges in the Netherlands in September 1944. The battle was a major turning point in the war, and the British 1st Airborne Division suffered heavy losses.
In 2019, the then Colchester Borough Council signed a bond of friendship with Renkum, the Dutch district including the town of Oosterbeek where soldiers landed and made their final stand, to mark their common relationship with the British Army’s airborne forces. The Dutch flag and Pegasus will be flying from Colchester Town Hall from 17 to 25 September to mark the nine days that the battle lasted 79 years ago.
The service will begin with a two-minute silence, followed by the reading of the Kohima Epitaph and the laying of wreaths and flowers. Pupils from local schools and cadets will lay sunflowers that haven been locally grown by the charity Abberton Rural Training at the War Memorial, mirroring the Dutch tradition of children laying flowers on the graves at the main commemorative service at Oosterbeek cemetery.
The Reverend Nigel Kinsella CF, Senior Chaplain 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, and the Mayor’s Chaplain, the Reverend Dr Amanda Elmes, will lead prayers. A bugler from The Band of The Royal Anglian Regiment will play The Last Post and Reveille.
The Mayor of Colchester, Cllr John Jowers, said: “The Battle of Arnhem was a defining moment in World War II. It was a bold and ambitious attempt to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation, but it ultimately ended in failure.
“Despite the outcome, the battle was a testament to the courage and determination of the Allied forces. They fought bravely against overwhelming odds, and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“This year, we mark the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem. It is a time to remember the fallen, and to pay tribute to their bravery. It is also a time to reflect on the importance of freedom and democracy, and to rededicate to fighting for these ideals. I hope that you will join me to pay your respects to those who fought and died for our freedom.”
The Commander Colchester Garrison, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Rankin, said: “Operation Market Garden was a hugely ambitious operation, if ultimately unsuccessful, and it is right that we should honour the bravery and sacrifice of all who took part. It is legendary within airborne forces and those who fought at Arnhem set a standard that we, as the current generation in our Colchester home base, aim to live up to.
Page last reviewed: 13 September 2023